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Toxin scare hits mozzarella sales

21 March 08 07:44 GMT
By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

Sales of mozzarella cheese made from buffalo milk have been hit by a contamination scare.

Eighty buffalo herds in the Naples area have been quarantined on suspicion that their milk may contain dangerous levels of dioxin.

The animals grazed on land where toxic industrial waste may have been illegally dumped by criminals.

The local Mafia - called the Camorra - have been making huge profits by dumping toxic waste in the region.

Tiny fraction

Production of buffalo mozzarella - one of Italy's most famous delicacies - has been hit by the dioxin scare.

Government laboratories are analysing milk samples taken from some 2,000 herds of buffalo which graze near Caserta, just north of Naples.

Government inspectors and scientists have cautioned that only a tiny fraction of Italy's total buffalo-milk production is affected by the quarantine orders.

They say that consumers would have to eat huge quantities of mozzarella cheese over a period of many months for the higher than normal levels of dioxin to affect their health.

But Italian consumers seem to want to take no risks, and sales of Neapolitan mozzarella cheese have declined by nearly 50% in recent weeks, according to farmers' associations.

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